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Research Data Management

This guide will assist researchers in planning for the various stages of managing their research data and in preparing data management plans required with funding proposals.

Data Organization

One of the most important aspects of data organization is consistency. A data management plan can help with this, as it will provide you with an authoritative document that you can refer to throughout your project to ensure you are being consistent in managing your data. Organizing your data includes things like developing and using standard file naming conventions and having a standardized directory structure for the storing of your files. Whether or not you are required to create a data management plan, creating a plan for the organization of your files is likely to save you time over the course of your research project that would otherwise be wasted trying to track down particular drafts, datasets, or other files.

File Naming Conventions

Having descriptive and informative file names is an important part of organizing your research data. It is best to develop file naming conventions based on the elements that are integral the project you are working on. It may be helpful to create a list of the important components of your project, and then choose from these to determine your file naming rules. 

File name components

  • File creator's name or initials
  • Project lead's name or initials
  • Project name
  • Date file was created 
  • Version number
  • Location

Guidelines for file names

  • Files should be named in a consistent manner
  • File names should be short, but informative
  • Avoid the use of special characters or spaces (use hyphens or underscores instead)
  • Use consistent formatting for dates (We recommend YYYYMMDD or YYYY-MM-DD)
  • Include a version number (with leading zeros)



  • 20191223-DataManagementGuide-V01
  • 20191223_DataManagementSlides-V03


  • DissChapter2-Harmon-V03
  • Experiment3-Harmon-V02

Organizing Your File Structure

In addition to having a system in place for naming your files, it is recommended to have a well thought out file structure to help you keep your materials organized. The appropriate organization and hierarchy will be determined by your specific project, but being consistent in where you stash your files will save you time and stress. If you are working with others, be sure that everyone understands and adheres to this structure. 


  • Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
    • Drafts
    • Raw Data
    • Processed Data
  • Project
    • Experiment 1
      • Data
      • Observations
      • Analysis
    • Experiment 2